Please, Take Vacation.

Please, Take Vacation.
Millions of vacation days every single year in the USA go “unused.”  This makes me shake my head. As we approach the end of our lives, loads of research indicates that our seniors/elders say that they remember the memories and relationships. They also  wish that they would have worked less, and been more bold and courageous. So please, take vacation.
What a recent, one full week of vacation did for me and my partner?
Rest.  We didn’t wake up before 6am and we fell asleep around 10pm or earlier every night. That’s at least 8 hours of sleep. Yes, the amount of sleep that we are encouraged to get by all health experts.
Recover. Enjoyed downtime by the pool and the Caribbean Sea did wonders for my soul and mind. The water and sun were soothing.
Health. The resort had a  spa that was very handy; it offered hydrotherapy, massages, pedicures, manicures, personal trainers, etc. It was integrated right in to the resort, instead of being a separate building. The four restaurants all had vegetarian options, which played right in to my new focus of eating no meat or dairy.
Prioritize. Being away from my coaching work and my companies actually allowed me to refocus and re-prioritize what I needed to improve upon during the next 90 days.  It also gave us both great satisfaction as we reviewed what we got accomplished in the last 90 days.
Read. I finally had time, yes time, to sit and read a very impactful 400-page book. This book, “Being Mortal”, will probably help me age more gracefully and also help us as we help care for our parents as they age, too. It was a pivotal read, and I can’t imagine NOT taking the time to read it. And by the way, it had been on my bookshelf for 3 years…
Write. You see that here.
Reconnect. The time out of country, for the second time this year, allowed my partner and I to really connect, talk, and just be together. We were NOT busy, we were instead very present. We were there for one another. And yet still had our own alone time to do whatever the heck we wanted.
So please, take vacation.  It is good for your soul, mind, body, and your relationships at home and work.

Just Go See Them

In the last 45 days, the opportunity to “Just Go See Them” has come up over and over.  What do I mean by “Just Go See Them?” Some very important people in my life have recently faced some very serious health challenges, and I realized in the past, that maybe I was “too busy” to go see and visit friends during these challenging times.  That wasn’t going to happen this time around.

A very good friend had survived nearly 10 surgeries in the last couple months. We felt he was nearing the end of his life.  So we jumped on a plane, flew to Houston, visited with him (and his wife and daughter). We were able to connect: look at each other, smile, nod, and touch hands.  He died the day after we left.

My girlfriend just had some surgery.  We allowed her to rest for three weeks. On our drive to see her, we bought some flowers, visited for a couple hours to get all caught up on her healing and squeezed her new puppy.  She was full of life again!

One of my best girlfriends was caring for one of her best male friends.  He didn’t have many visitors at the hospital.  My exhausted, care-taking girlfriend reached out to me for a much-needed lift.  I quickly made a stop, picked up some fun items on the clearance aisle, and visited them both in the cardiac- care-unit hospital room.  We laughed, we listened, we prayed.  Together, that visit made the three of us better and more aware of each other. He is now back at home and working again.  She is vacationing with her family.  Both full of life.

My parents were at Mayo’s in Minnesota for some medical check-ups.  Knowing that this could be some complicated news that would be difficult for my parents to hear, I flew to Minnesota to be with my parents. It was one of those moments that a mother and daughter discuss life, each other’s existence, the next steps, and the potential gameplan. Being there further strengthened our incredible bond as mother and daughter.

In the last 45 days, every single person that I have met is “BUSY.” We all are busy.  I was busy.  Every one of these precious friends and family members was  even busier.  But, what I have learned is this:  Just Go See ThemIt Matters. We All Are Busy.  Have No Regrets. Just Go See Them. 

Keep On Keeping On

Keep trying.
Keep writing.
Keep staying connected with friends and family.
Keep forgiving.
Keep loving.

Keep giving.
Keep listening well.

Keep staying curious.
Keep giving very little advice to others.
Keep believing.
Keep being faithful.

Keep embracing kindness.

Keep resting and recovering.

Keep striving to be a better you.

Keep on keeping on.

 

 

 

Intentional & Curious

In February, we headed to Mayo’s with incredible intentionality. We did not like the uncurious answers by local doctors and experts to our questions about our health. We scheduled, in advance, a two-day appointment. This gave us time to gather our records, which helped Mayo’s with their work in understanding our health situation much better.
  • Was the $1,000 Trip (food, airfare and 2 hotel nights) worth it? Yes.
  • Why? When you find out that at this 4th opinion, not just a 2nd or 3rd opinion, there is “no need for surgical intervention on your heart,” we were relieved and that was a priceless feeling. In common language, the doc said “we don’t think you need open heart surgery.”
  • Are you staying curious enough, when you know the symptoms are NOT there? Are you intentional enough to go get multiple opinions? Are you willing to take the time and energy to do it? Do you do this with your business? Your own health?
My lesson learned is quite simple: remain curious and be intentional. If you settle, sometimes an unnecessary open heart surgery can happen due to the system’s or the doctors’ lack of curiosity, as well as the potential conflict of being paid handsomely for the surgery.
In reading and finishing (billionaire) Ray Dalio’s book, “Principles”, he talks thoughtfully about radical open mindedness and radical transparency. He, too, went through the energy and effort of getting 4-5 medical opinions, only to find out that he NEVER had cancer in the first place.
Remain curious and intentional, my friends.

90 Day Priorities

You have some goals and priorities at the “new year”? Do you keep those goals progressing every 90 days?
Here’s a hint to help you execute on those goals:
Write them down. 
Review them and discuss them with someone you deeply trust throughout January.  Weekly. Then do that same process again in February. Weekly.  And again in March.  Weekly.
Wisely attack a few of your goals. All of your annual goals do NOT have to be started in January.
For example, I have always wanted to read more. Every single year. But in 2018, I was more specific with my “read more” goal. I wanted to read books that would help me improve my leadership training and business ownership skills, and to help me coach others on sales growth. After discussing this with a ferocious reader, he recommended that I utilize an app and listen to books as I drive. So I downloaded the mobile app Audible, and got my first book free. I have already finished it, downloaded another book and finished it, too. And have read five hardback books that were within reach in my office. Yes, three books read by Feb 4. And now 7 books read by March 17, 2018. A new record for me, all because I changed a few critical behaviors: downloaded an app, listened/listening to books on Audible, and taking more time to read the good books that I already own.
The annual “eat more healthy goal” was also written down. However, this year I am taking trips to the grocery store and buying different type of foods. Olives. Oranges. Sugar-free dark chocolate. And I listened to a podcast on mindful eating; now I am much more aware of WHAT I am eating and the size of portion, as I now compare those portions to my palm and hand.
Lesson learned for me is simply this: take VERY specific actions to change behavior quickly, after you write down and share your goals. Review your progress weekly, and then re-evaluate every 90 days.  Simply ask yourself, how did you do? If you progress and achieve at 75-80% success rate, pat yourself on the back, and continue your progress.  Kudos to YOU!

Your Outlook Matters!

Are you a Woman in Leadership in a corporate or entrepreneurial setting? Or do you have a desire to become one? We work with women like you. Women who aspire ‘to sit at the table’ confidently; to run the financial side of business; to lead, collaborate with, and facilitate others; to let ambitions go hand in hand with a good work life balance; and to turn ‘hard work’ into ‘heartwork’, as this propells their leadership.

Our passion is to support/coach women, helping bring out their full potential and taking their leadership to a next level. We focus on the whole person, both work and private life, as we don’t see these as two separate worlds. With our monthly blog, (leveraging examples from our coaching and consulting practices), we provide tips, advice, and new outlooks which will encourage you to move forward. In our blog ‘What’s your top priority?’ we focussed on the importance of putting yourself first (#1), as leadership starts with you. What’s next?! Let’s start with a test.

Test your outlook (Self-Assess)
Answer the following questions with yes or no. We recommend you just follow your heart with your answer, not thinking too long. Tip: why not share your answers with a trusted friend or partner? It may turn out to be the start of your heartwork ‘support-team’.
1. When I wake up, I usually think ‘yes, this is going to be another good day!’.
2. When I receive a ‘bad’ comment, I typically view it as a learning opportunity.
3. I truly believe that not all people have to like me.
4. When my boss wants to have a talk with me, I don’t expect ‘trouble’.
5. When things go wrong or not as planned, I look forward to find the best solutions.

What’s your score?
Did you score four or more yes answers? If so, then there’s a big chance you are the optimistic type who sees the glass as always half-full. With mostly no’s on your list, you are probably the type who’s glass is half-empty or as a person with a pessimistic outlook. Did your answers ‘split’ with 2-3 yes’s or no’s? Then you first have to do some work on self. With a coach, you can explore what makes your answers a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, what’s getting in your way, and find out more about your outlook.

Does it matter? 
Yes! In our practice, we see that optimism facilitates women with their heartwork. Optimists stay focussed, action oriented, and keep moving ahead instead of spiraling down when things do not go the desired way. Optimistic ‘framing’ supports women to sustain themselves on their path to leadership.

Good news!
If optimism does not come naturally to you, the good news is that it can be learned. You can train yourself to be more optimistic, use less energy on negative thoughts, and prevent yourself from spiraling down. In our practice, here’s what we have learned as some tips from other women:
1.    Reflect on what’s really meaningful for you. Listen to your heart and make ‘adaptations’ in your (whole) life, if needed. It ‘brightens up’ your outlook.
2.    If you are a ‘worrier’, list all things you worry about. Which ones can you truly influence? Think of specific actions that will help you influence & solve them,  and then do it!
3.    When something goes wrong, do not think of the worse-case scenario. Instead,  reverse it! As a practice, sketch the positive scenarios first.
4.    Do you often have a little voice in your head that amplifies and/or dispapproves of  every mistake? Talk back and move forward!
5.    Are you an ‘approval junkie’? Then reflect on ‘What makes others opinions more important then my own?!’
6.    Do you avoid conflicts? Remember that conflicts are part of life and not the end of the world. On the contrary, they often lead to the long sought-after solution! Embrace this solution.
7.    Is your environment a bit ‘gloomy’? Then step out of this environment regularly. How? By meeting new people and doing new things. Like siging up of an art or fitness class, doing community work, reading inspiring books and articles…….
8.     Go the appreciative way: look for what works, instead of what does not work. It ‘opens up’ new possibilities and changes your worldview.

Just do it
It is this ‘simplicity’ which will make the tips effective. At the same time, this is the ‘difficult’ part. It requires letting go of old habits, exploring new territories, and adapting your framework. Yes, this is a challenging process and it may take some practicing. Where do you start? It all starts with a choice: choosing yourself and engaging in heartwork. Once you have taken this leap, practice is the key. Take many small steps (instead of one big step). Be aware of ‘overdoing’ it, as being too optimistic often leads to excuses. With all that in mind, just imagine what could happen if you go the optimistic way? Do not stop there, just do it!

Note: Authors Maleene de Ridder and Jen Wilfong are passionate about developing women as leaders. They embrace purposeful balance, wellness and ongoing learning, as well as leveraging global trends to further their coaching & consulting businesses. Both are certified coaches from the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, CA. For more information, check them out on the web at www.maleenederidder.com and www.jenwilfong.com

Get Connected!

Are you a Woman in Leadership in a corporate or entrepreneurial setting? Or do you have a desire to become one? We work with women like you: those who aspire ‘to sit at the table’ confidently; to run the financial side of business; to lead, collaborate with, and facilitate others, and to let ambitions go hand in hand with a good work life balance. Women who want to turn hard work into heartwork as this propels their leadership.

Our passion is to support/coach women to help bring out their full potential and take their leadership to a next level. We focus on the whole person, both work and private life, as we don’t see these as two separate ‘worlds’. With our monthly blog, from our coaching and consulting practices, we provide tips, advice, and new outlooks which will encourage you to move forward. We started with “What’s your top priority?” and focused on the importance of putting yourself first (#1), as leadership starts with you. The second “Your Outlook Matters” blog underlined the importance of optimistic ‘framing’. As nobody does it alone, this third blog is about the relationships you build along your way to leadership. We see that women with strong networks and the ability to connect benefit from it. Personally, and professionally, and their team benefits, too!

Use your Connecting Talent

Connectedness is the core to heartwork. It is essential to your sense of meaning and fulfillment. A leader with strong connections can share this with her colleagues and team members, and by doing so, inspire others to commit to the work. So it can work both ways, as employees thrive on the support from the person they work for. It gives the leader the most important support she can get: commitment from her ‘team’.

Most women are natural ‘relationship builders’ and most are focused on inclusiveness. These strengths can make women extremely effective leaders, capable of mobilizing talent and inspiring commitment. With our clients, we see many women under utilize their connecting talents in an effective way to network for work for them. Why? Women tend to build deep relationships and therefore have a relatively small network. Men, on the other hand, tend to build broader and shallower networks, making them more visible and thus have a wider range of resources available for career opportunities. Furthermore, many women do not allocate the time to build professional networks. Main reasons are their home responsibilities and ‘aversion’ to networking. To be an effective leader, women need to use their connecting skills intentionally and do business networking actively. It is not optional; it is a must to turn your connecting talent into a value.

Become a Connector

Connecting starts with you. Read our blog ‘What’s your top priority?’ on how to connect to the things that are meaningful to you and what makes work heartwork for you. Connecting with the people inside and outside your organization starts by recognizing and ‘reading’ one’s own and others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence (EQ) plays an important role in this regard. It requires awareness of emotions and the effects of it on self and others, managing those emotions, and building relationships by the ability to inspire, influence and develop others. The good news is that EQ competencies are not innate talents, but rather learned capabilities that must be worked on and can be developed to achieve outstanding performance.

Start smart

Where to start? First step is to ‘assess’ your own EQ. Explore and note how you read your own and others’ emotions? And then assess how you manage your and others’ emotions? Start with your strengths. Other actions to become a connector might include:

– Ask instead of tell. It makes people feel worthwhile and creates followers;

– Practice inclusiveness;

– Build a broad network with lots of casual connections;

– Use your network on a regular basis. How? By ‘giving and taking’;

– Find a sponsor.

CV becomes Connecting Value

Leaders who are motivated to work on both their EQ, as well as their network, will strengthen and enlarge their connecting value and improve their leadership. For them, this CV will matter more than their other CV (resume). What’s your next step?

Note: Authors Maleene de Ridder and Jen Wilfong are passionate about developing women as leaders. They embrace purposeful balance, wellness and ongoing learning, as well as leveraging global trends to further their coaching & consulting businesses. Both certified coaches from the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, CA. For more information, check them out on the web at www.maleenederidder.com and www.jenwilfong.com

Can Leaders Become Master Gardeners?

As I began planting flowers this spring, I noticed a lot of similarities between developing businesses (and people) and growing a garden. My grandmother had a natural green thumb; she just knew how to get plants to take root and grow. She passed her love of gardening on to my mother. Mom has won numerous garden show awards by showing flowers and arrangements from her English-like gardens in the country. As for me, I can only hope to be as accomplished as they both were with their gardening skills, since I thoroughly enjoy working in my yard, especially with flower containers, and in community gardens, routinely checking out the multitude of flower beds. However, as I work in those beds, I find that I am using it as time to fine tune how I might help develop businesses and the people who make those businesses grow.

Here are the similarities that I notice between gardening and growing people and businesses:

Cultivate the soil. As you get ready to start your businesses, preparation is key. You may pull all-nighters thinking about the idea. You might provide a business plan to your banker, your partner or investors. You might even work for a competitor to learn and establish your own secret sauce. The key here is prep. The seed might just take root if the soil is cultivated just right.

Plant the seed. Once the prep is done, it’s time to plant the seed and get the business growing. Be watchful, to ensure the seed or idea sprouts. However, be patient and allow time for the business or person to grow. All things take time, but all things need a bit of attention, too. Be very selective with people; like seeds, they’ll grow best where the soil is ready and the support is easily available.

Water it/let it rain. Flowers and plants need the right amount of moisture, or they can’t produce nutrients for themselves. Water is the No. 1 need for plants and humans. How can you keep your employees fluid and engaged, bringing their ideas forward and solving problems quickly? Whatever you do, don’t let your people or your business idea dry up.

Sunshine. The sun is the most amazing star, at the center of the solar system. It gives plants, flowers, and people rays of hope. Employees need encouragement and recognition. Businesses need to see lights at the end of the tunnels. We all embrace sunrises and sunsets because of their simplistic beauty. Give your business and employees plenty of sun!

Fertilize appropriately. Every now and then, we all need an extra dose of something. A flower container might be stagnant, but with a shot of fertilizer, it can grow to a whole new height. Employees and business owners who gather advice, mentoring and coaching along the way have a better chance of having a growth spurt than those who don’t ask for feedback.

Remove the weeds. As business grows, you may have to eliminate some products, services, locations or employees. Toxic employees, processes, ideas or suffocating customers can kill growth. Just like a flower or vegetable garden, don’t allow the weeds to take over your harvest.

Just like gardening, there is rarely a magical fix when developing successful businesses and people. It takes continual good decisions with a mixture of appropriate actions for a business and employee to thrive. Too much of one thing can quickly overcome a business (or a garden). Be watchful and attentive; but once you have it figured out, watch it grow to an amazing garden/business/employee.

After a while, a flower garden can become overgrown. The gardener then splits up some of the flowers and transplants them in a new flowerbed. In business, that might mean finding a new location, expanding services or adding new employees to further grow the business. Whether you’re an emerging leader, a woman in leadership, or an entrepreneur, embrace becoming a master gardener for your business!

At 50, Leverage Your Strengths

Today I was prepping for some Strengths Finders training that I will be attending during the week of July 6 in Princeton. In reviewing my strengths that I took back in 2013, I was reminded that discipline is my top strength, closely followed by focus, achiever, responsibility, and learner. Thus, it is probably not a surprise that I am prepping 2-3 weeks in advance, being someone with those discipline, focus, and responsibility strengths.

Before turning 50 in August 2014, my partner and I made the pledge to look good in our photos during our trips to Italy, Chicago, and the lake in the summer of 2014. That pledge really leveraged my strengths of achiever, but also discipline and focus. As we traveled last summer, our snaps turned out great and we felt good in the process of hitting the big 50. We had energy, we enjoyed friends and family, and felt great.

After I turned 50, I quickly became a bit lazy and quit leveraging my discipline strength. I gained weight back, even though we were working out and ran a half marathon in the Fall 2014. But in January 2015, I wrote down: “get in the 150’s (pounds) and stay there.”  By writing that down and embracing my strengths, I have found it easy and focused to eat less this year. And I weigh 8-10 pounds less than I did while on our trips last summer.

I want to be role model of wellness at 50, and so my strength of responsibility is really kicking in right now. The self esteem burst of “look good, feel great” is worth the effort to the daily rejection of sweets, desserts, extra helpings, and that extra drink. My focus on wellness is delivering on this:  Be happy. Be healthy. Be connected. Be grateful. Be well. Be encouraged. Be a role model.

What are your strengths? I bet you are using them at work. But how about in your personal life and with your own well being? My hope for you is that you deploy your strengths routinely in your blended life of home, play, family, friends, faith, and yes, at work.

Volunteering Catapults You & Your Career

Are you stuck in your role at work? Are you missing opportunities to get that promotion? Are you not viewed as a leader yet? Your answer could be as simple as volunteering. Every time I volunteer, it helps me build my network and further my career. It has also made me better and more informed as a leader and community member. Let me share a few examples.

In 1987-1988, a mid-level leader asked me to coach basketball with him, as his daughters were on the team. After declining a couple times, I finally agreed (after someone else encouraged me to do it). Our results with these middle school girls helped change their lives; they won more games during those two years than they ever had in the past. Many of the girls said that winning improved their confidence levels. As for my takeaway, the mid-level leader I coached with became a senior executive a few years later and was a strong supporter of mine during my entire career.

In 1993, a senior executive asked me to help manage the United Way (UW) of Middle Tennessee campaign for our financial services company. This was my first experience working with a national non-profit organization and it was also the first time a campaign had been run at this Company. We accomplished a spike in giving to United Way by our employees and leaders, and they also became involved in additional volunteer opportunities. UW of Middle TN recognized our Company for being an outstanding first time campaign. My takeaway? The senior executive who asked me to run the campaign became one of my biggest and longest supporters in the Company.

In 2000 I lost my battle with ulcerative colitis. I began walking to raise money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). I quickly realized that walking actually helped me feel better physically. I also noticed that as I asked people to donate to CCFA, it gave me the opportunity to refine my message, i.e. “why am I involved in CCFA”. This helped me when I spoke to all size groups. Within a few years, speaking became a strength for me. When I launched my own non-profit and scholarship fund (Can Do 4:13 Scholarship & Mentoring Program), the practice I received with CCFA gave me the confidence to state my goals for Can Do, including why I created the program, and why people should donate. I utilized these same skills as I articulated business plans and marketing strategies as a senior leader in my Company.

Because of my work with CCFA and Can Do, a fast moving leader (who also was a previous boss) asked me to replace him as a Board Member at the Community Foundation of Central Illinois in 2005. This was a huge step for me, as I had never been on a Board. The role had fiduciary responsibility, as well as being more aware of what was going on in the community because we selected grants to distribute. The experience helped me improve my financial business acumen, clarify my values, and refine my message on my passions. Fast forward to 2010; guess who my new boss was? That same leader who recommended me for the Board position.

Volunteering and continually being nudged along by key influencers definitely helped my career. More important than my career, it helped me become a better, more informed and caring woman. So what’s getting in your way of volunteering? Are you a woman in leadership or an emerging leader? If you want to build your network, increase sales or make a difference, pick a volunteer opportunity that you are passionate about, or have a leader/colleague/friend gently nudge you along. It just might catapult you and your career to new heights.